Community Engagement & Service

Examining Access to Higher Education in the U.S. and Cuba: A Right or a Dream?

Alternative Break Cuba 2013

The Trip:
Leaders and academic scholars worldwide have consistently confirmed that Cuba has a very successful education system where all students have the opportunity to attend and excel in school. Within the United States many would argue this is not the same reality. Higher education in Cuba and the U.S. are organized very differently than one another because of their long social history and economic systems.
While both societies place a high emphasis on higher education, the way that is actually played out in terms of cost, high school completion, entrance processes for college, and college completion are quite different. In the U.S. homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration, all have links to level of education. Our trip will examine access to higher education in Cuba and how their state seeks to maintain education as a right for all people in comparison to the U.S. system, which although it holds higher education in high regard—remains an impossible dream for many Americans. Through examining access to higher education we hope to learn how Cuba can provide a college education to all those that choose to advance their studies. How is their political state able to educate the large quantity of students it does? How do their policies and practices differ from those in our home country and why?

Participants on this Alternative Spring Break will be able to learn about various organizations and community groups that seek to merge the very wide education barrier in the United States through pre-trip service in the Washington metro area. Before and after the trip, participants will strive to connect students and education programs and community organizations in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. On the ground in Cuba, participants will have the opportunity to meet with existing partners, schools, and officials and learn how access to higher education is attainable within their society. By analyzing these two nations’ education systems through a social justice lens, participants will learn about and question the social, political and economic structures and contradictions that exist in American and Cuban societies, and discuss ways in which they can act against situations that lead to the oppression of students within our home communities and our partner community in Cuba.

Service Projects:

Because Cuban regulations prohibit foreigners from engaging in education-related service projects, participants on this trip will engage in 20-40 hours of service activities in the DC area before our trip. We envision participants getting well-versed in various organizations that serve the DC community, when considering resources that provide students with the tools they need to achieve a higher education. Students will volunteer at an organization or site that focuses on the issue of making a higher education accessible to all, regardless of economic status and other struggles.

About the Student Leaders…

Maria Schneider is a senior studying American Studies with minors in Education and Spanish. She is an active member of the AU community in the national community service group Alpha Phi Omega, and a member of the female A Cappella group Treble in Paradise. Prior to being a leader for the Cuba Alt Break this spring, Maria has been a participant on the 2011 trip to Haiti and the 2012 trip to San Francisco.

Cindy Zavala is a junior studying Public Community with a minor in Literature. She works closely with almost every part of the Center for Community Engagement & Service, she helps to coordinate the Freshmen Service Experience and has participated in two Alternative Breaks in the past to Kenya and Cuba. She is currently the co-director of the Latino Student Association and she is excited about learning to play guitar this fall semester.

Sample Itinerary (subject to change):

The Center for Global Education (CGE) at Augsburg College is working with us to develop our itinerary. We will be hosted by El Centro Memorial Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Havana, Cuba. The MLK Center actively promotes progressive change and social responsibility throughout Cuba and provides popular education training programs and workshops to empower Latin Americans as social change agents.

Saturday, March 9
Airport Arrival on Marazul-Havana Airport
Meeting with MLK staff: orientation and introduction                   

Sunday, March 10
Tour Revolution Plaza and historical sites in Havana

Monday, March 11
Visit to rural school
Return to Havana
Go to US Interest Section for a briefing
Jazz Jam Session at the Gardens of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Tuesday, March 12
Meeting with MLK Founder and Congressman Rev. Raúl Suárez
Visit to the Latina American Medical School
Trip to the Literacy Museum/talk with a member of the literacy brigades  
Tour of the Malecón (seafront) of Havana

Wednesday, March 13
School Visit: Solidaridad con Panamá
Visit to a Children's Circle: Los Tabitos
Visit to a Beginning Music School Alejandro G. Caturla

Thursday, March 14
Meet with officials of the Ministry of Education
Visit to the University of Havana
Tour Marina Hemingway

Friday, March 15
Visit to teacher-training institute
Visit to the Cuban Pedagogic Association
Meeting at the University for Adults/holistic neighborhood workshop—
a Cuban Project to better underprivileged neighborhoods

Saturday, March 16
Final Reflection
Evaluations, packing, free time
Arrive at airport for departure to Miami

Location: Havana, Cuba

Trip Dates: March 9 - March 17, 2013

Student Trip Leaders: Cindy Zavala and Maria Schneider

Staff Advisor: Marcy Campos

Cost: $2,000

Cost includes airfare, food, lodging, transportation and all activities.

Costs do not cover vaccinations.